The other day my four year old was singing her heart out as she does regularly. I commented that maybe she would be a singer when she grew up. She corrected me without skipping a beat “I already am!!”
Well my dear, this is actually true, you are a singer.
Why do we have to wait for some subjective age or goal post that reinforces or validates that we are what we are trying to achieve? Well you are not a singer, capital S, since you did not receive a Grammy award. You are not an artist, your work is not on show. I feel like these cultural expectations and definitions of “success” in any given area (most often associated with external appreciation or fame) really create a lot of anxiety, fear, feelings of inadequacy and at times even shame in all. No I can’t paint anything, I’m not an artist. I would feel soooo embarrassed if someone saw my chicken scratches! So we don’t. We don’t play, we don’t try, we don’t sing, we don’t dance. And we feel lesser than. Lesser than who? Who knows. Why do we do this to ourselves, and why do we teach it to our kids? Can’t we all just be whatever we want? I get that in some cases a degree and a license to do things is important (e.g., brain surgery or something technical), but I feel that we limit ourselves beyond what is needed, and our souls and our lives suffer as a result.
I have at times felt restricted in my career. I need to say it. Psychology is one of the most rigorous and highly policed (internally albeit) professions. Don’t do anything that might bring negative attention to the profession! Don’t operate one inch outside of your bounds! Always learn more and make sure you are doing it right! Do no harm!! You can practice here, not there. This way, not that. It’s all a bit stifling I have to say. And there are many internal jokes within psychology about how we all have a perfectionistic, anxious, and imposter syndrome stance that is really hard to shake, even after the PhD, registration exams, and rigour of training is all over. While rules and regulations are often a good thing, I do wonder where the bounds of those guidelines end and my own definition of my career begins. And not just career, but broader life roles. Who would you be if you were not defining yourself by others’ definitions? If you closed your eyes and imagined your life without borders and constrictions, what might you want to do, say, or become?
Well whose life is this exactly? And how many do we get? That’s what I thought. Time to start being just whoever you want to be. If you get in trouble, if someone doubts you or says no you can’t, they are not your people. Just shift to to the right and carry on.